Injectable vs Oral Antibiotics for Swine: Which is Better? | UNAHCO

Injectable vs. Oral Antibiotics: Which is Better?

News & Events

Injectable vs. Oral Antibiotics: Which is Better?

News & Events

Injectable vs. Oral Antibiotics: Which is Better?


Antibiotics are commonly used to address a variety of diseases and parasites that can negatively affect pigs. They can also be used at any stage of pigs’ lives to promote ideal weight and better health, as well help reduce the risk for diseases and even death.

These medicines are usually sold as injections that can be administered onto the animal, or oral antibiotics that can be mixed with food and water.

While you’ll want to avoid situations that would prompt you to use antibiotics, it’s best to be informed on the types of antibiotics for pigs. Learn more about how injectable and oral antibiotics can work, and if any of these are better than the other.

Injectable Antibiotics for Pigs

Antibiotics for pigs can be administered through injections like Bacterid, through these three methods:

  • Subcutaneous (under the skin): Injectable antibiotics can be given to small pigs either inside the thigh below the fold of the skin, or below the skin behind their shoulders. For older pigs, this is best administered on the skin located 25 to 75mm behind an ear and on the same level as its base. The injection’s needle should measure 25mm and be raised at a 25-degree angle. 
  • Intravenous: Pigs can be given injectable antibiotics in their ear veins, the jugular vein above their heart, or the anterior vena cava (large vein) that leaves the heart. Out of these three veins, most injections are administered on the ear veins, especially for anesthetics and calcium injections.
    Injecting antibiotics intravenously starts with cleaning the skin located over the outer part of the pig’s ear using cotton wool and surgical spirit. This step also helps mark veins for the injection. To administer the injection, the pig is restrained around the upper jaw or sedated. 
  • Intramuscular: Injectable antibiotics are usually administered 70mm behind the ear’s base for weaners, growers, finishers, and adults. For small piglets who lack neck muscles, the antibiotics can be administered into the ham of the hind neck. However, this method isn’t recommended at all for growers and finishers because of the risk of abscesses.

Administration of injectable antibiotics can be more beneficial if you’re treating individual animals that are sick. This may help you target and pay attention to a specific animal.

However, a major drawback in administering injectable antibiotics is its potential to stress out pigs and weaken their immune system, since this can be done when the animals are restrained. Some of the medicines also pose a slower response time if they’re injected into the neck muscle. 

Benefits of Oral Antibiotics for Pigs

Multiple studies have shown that antibiotics are usually given to pigs orally, through feed and water. This method is usually done for group treatments of sick pigs. There are a number of advantages linked to administering antibiotics orally or via feed, such as:

  • Time of response: These medicines are said to respond more quickly in the pig’s body.
  • Less labor- and time-intensive: There’s very little need to apply restraints, administer medicine via needles, and worry about tissue damage and/or irritation at the injection site. Oral administration also takes less time to do, since you can easily do this task via a proportioner or an overhead tank system. 
  • Potential against outbreaks: Administration of water-soluble medicines like antibiotics may stabilize or even reduce the risk for disease outbreaks. However, even if an outbreak unfortunately happens, it’s still possible to administer antibiotics because pigs are known to continuously drink water even if they’re sick.

However, there are also cons when using administering water-soluble antibiotics, such as:

  • Equipment costs: Because most oral antibiotics are best used in groups, you may need to spend more for purchasing equipment and ensuring their maintenance in the long run. 
  • Presence of healthy pigs that won’t require treatment: As administration of oral antibiotics can be more beneficial when pigs are in one pen, it won’t be cost-efficient if a high number of animals are already healthy and won’t require treatment.
  • Increased risk of medicine waste: Pigs may tend to “play” with waterers, leading to both medicine and water waste.

When administering oral medication, especially through water, you’ll need to carefully and constantly check on the quality of water and how easily it is delivered. For instance, it has been suggested that increased levels of calcium in the water may lead to a reduced effectiveness of some medications with tetracycline.

Thorough clean-up of water lines used for oral antibiotic administration may also need to be done to potentially prevent contaminations within the farm..

How to Store Antibiotics

Both injectable and oral antibiotics have their own pros and cons, so you’ll need to consider multiple factors before making a final decision. However, whether you go the injection or oral route, it’s still important to know how to properly store antibiotics so they can be effective once they’re used:

  1. Refrigerate heat-sensitive antibiotics and vaccines at temperatures between 2 to 8 degrees Celsius. 
  2. Store your antibiotics in regularly cleaned areas, and in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Label your antibiotics accordingly and always look out for warning signs.
  4. Avoid storing antibiotics in places that contain food or drink. Refrain from storing them near animal feed storage too.
  5. In case of spills, carefully clean them and dispose of them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  6. In the event that the product/s have expired, safely and legally dispose of them.

Should there be side effects that occur after the administration of the antibiotic, don’t hesitate to call a veterinarian right away. To know more about the ideal antibiotic treatments for your pigs and how they can help, visit the UNAHCO website today.


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